Did you know that your headphones could be hijacked to spy on you? Well, a group of researchers managed to do just that as they’ve developed a proof-of-concept code that can hijack headphones and turn them into makeshift microphones which can be used to spy on others.
This code, called “Speake(a)r”, was developed by researchers at Israel’s Ben Gurion University. The code works by using a little-known feature found in RealTek’s audio codec chip, allowing them to silently “retast” the computer’s output channel as an input channel. Once done, the malware will be able to use your headphones as a surrogate microphone, allowing it to record audio even when the headphones remain connected into an output-only jack. As RealTek chips are rather common these days, the code can work on almost any desktop computer regardless of whether or not it operates on Windows or MacOS.
For now, no known hacking group has used this method to spy on other people. There are also no known malware that operates similarly to “Speake(a)r” yet. Regardless, if you’re afraid of being spied on, it seems that unplugging your headphones when you’re not using it would be a wise thing to do.